She doesn't believe in love at first sight. But Rory MacPherson could change Peggy's mind. The instant spark between them is undeniable. He's funny, charming and a single touch from him makes her weak in the knees. But Rory's humanitarian aid work in Haiti has taught him to live life to the fullest, and his impulsive nature is at odds with the stability Peggy loves in Eden Harbor. When Peggy's confronted with her past, having an outlook like Rory's seems impossible. But so does letting go of the perfect man
About the Author
A happily married couple discover a secret from their past that threatens to destroy their marriage and leave a little girl without a family.
Stella enjoys the thrill of devising a plot, discovering the right characters and writing a book about love and commitment. Find her at www.stellamaclean.com or Facebook.com/stella.maclean.3 or twitter.com/Stella__MacLean
Read an Excerpt
Rory MacPherson wanted to yell out in pain
if he didn't faint first. Dr. Brandon had been meticulously putting stitches into his forearm and was now cleaning up the blood from around the wound. Rory didn't want to admit how much it hurt. Wimping out would hardly endear him to the people of Eden Harbor, a small, tight-knit community on the coast of Maine.
"There." The doctor stripped off his gloves and dropped them on the table next to the stretcher where Rory sat. "All you need is a dressing and a tetanus shot, and then I'd like you to have some routine blood work done. The nurse will give you instructions on where to go for that."
"A what?" Rory asked. Feeling anxious, he glanced from Dr. Brandon to the nurse.
"The nurse will explain everything," Dr. Brandon said, his glance swerving to the digital clock on the wall. "I have to go. The nurse will give you an appointment to see me back here in two days. I'll check your arm, see how it's doing. Using an electric saw can be dangerous. You were lucky."
Rory didn't want to know any more than he had to. Medical things weren't his strong suit. He'd discovered that about himself when he was ten and fell out of a tree, breaking his leg, requiring surgery, bandages and, of course, needles. He figured he wouldn't have to deal with that stuff anymore until he went to volunteer in Haiti for two years as a carpenter. There, he saw men working with him experience serious injuries. "Thanks, doc," Rory said, alarmed at how weak his voice sounded.
The nurse applied a dressing then picked up a syringe from the tray.
"Is that needle for me?"
"Yes. It's a tetanus shot."
"Where are you going to put it?" he asked, holding his injured arm close to his chest. "Can you roll up the sleeve on your other arm?"
"Sure, I guess so," Rory said, complying with her request. He looked away as she gave the shot.
"Okay, here's your requisition. The phlebotomy clinic is just down the hall to your right. Once you've had your blood taken you can go." She passed him the slip of paper, a smile dimpling her cheeks.
Rory stood. Yep, his legs were holding. He took a deep breath.
"Remember to keep your arm up as much as possible and keep your bandage clean until the doctor sees you again."
Would this injury affect his ability to do his job as a carpenter? He hoped not. "Thank you." Rory made his way out of the room, the requisition in his good hand, his pride intact.
He reached the entrance to the clinic and approached the desk. There was no one there. He was about to sit down and wait when he heard voices from a room just beyond the desk.
He approached the door. Just as he did he heard a child's anxious voice telling someone he didn't want a needle. A child after his own heart, he thought, risking a glance into the room. A woman knelt in front of the boy, who was huddled on his mother's lap. The woman dressed in pink scrubs touched the little boy's arm, her voice so soothing he wanted to keep standing there and be soothed a little himself. It had been a rough day, made worse when he'd let his attention slip and cut his arm on the saw he'd been using to fix a client's back steps.
The woman was speaking softly to the child. Slowly the little boy held out his arm and let her put the needle in. Rory blinked to block the sight. When he opened his eyes again, the woman was watching him with the brownest eyes he'd ever seen. Her face was alight with interest and awareness.
In that instant he felt a connection he'd never ever experienced. Did he know her? Did she know him? It was as if they'd met before, but he was pretty sure they hadn't. He would have remembered this woman. She was totally unforgettable.
He stood there feeling a bit like an idiot. Yet he couldn't seem to move, to break the connection. He wanted to go to her, take her hands and simply be with her. How nuts was that? He'd never felt that way before about any woman. Even though there'd been many opportunities to hook up, this was different. Maybe it had something to do with the tetanus shot.
"Are you here to have your blood taken?" she asked, returning her attention to the child and his mother.
Suddenly the room around him seemed less welcoming. "I am."
"If you'd like to take a seat in the waiting area in front of the desk" her gaze returned to him, one eyebrow raised in question "I'll be there as soon as I finish here."
"Sure," he said, aware of how the single pearl on the end of a gold chain she wore nestled into the V of her throat. Imagining what her skin would feel like under his fingers, how her heart would pound to his touch, made his blood run hot.
More like how his heart would pound when she put the needle into his arm.
Feeling awkward and a little strange, he went back and sat down. He struggled to divert his thoughts away from her and how she made him feel, focusing instead on a flu shot poster.
In a few minutes, the woman came out with the mother and her son. Rory watched as she walked with them to the entrance, still speaking in soothing tones. He couldn't help but notice how her top fit her body, how the loose fit of the pants couldn't completely hide the smooth thighs beneath the fabric.
She didn't glance at him as she went to her desk, and he felt deprived, left out of some special secret. He followed her, resting his good arm on the raised counter.
She sat down at the computer and tapped a couple of keys. She turned her full attention to him, her eyes focused on his. Suddenly he couldn't remember what he was doing here. Think!
"Do you have a requisition you'd like to give me?" she asked, a tiny smile tilting one corner of her lips, the corner where she had a small beauty spot he noted despite his state of confusion.
What was happening? He felt so so something. Was this how love felt? So hot? So weird? He'd never felt this way before, but that didn't mean it was love. He hadn't been in a relationship for a long while, hadn't felt anything for anyone since his return from Haitiuntil this moment. That had to be what was going on here. He needed to get back into the dating game, back to his old life of enjoying every opportunity to meet a woman. And this was the perfect moment. "Yes." He rushed the word. "Right here." He passed the requisition to her, nearly hitting her in the face in his eagerness to comply with her request.
She looked it over, keyed in the information and placed the requisition on the top of a pile already on her desk. Behind her a printer groaned to life, disgorging a narrow strip of paper. She tore it off and stood up. "Please follow me," she said with a backward glance over her shoulder, that smile making him feel like a fifth grader.
Rory followed her, all the while his mind going over the possibilities. She wasn't wearing a wedding band, and her name tag said her first name was Peggy. He sat down in the chair she pointed to, resting his injured arm on the armrest while he watched her efficient movements. So efficient, in fact, that she was suddenly standing beside him with a bunch of tubes and a needle.
"Hold out your right arm, please," she said, whipping a tourniquet from her pocket as she laid the other supplies on a steel tray next to his chair.
The scent of her hair, the gentleness of her touch distracted him so much he nearly missed what she'd said. Hastily, he straightened out his arm. She swabbed the bend in his elbow. She pressed her fingers into the space she'd swabbed, holding her needle angled toward his arm. "Make a fist."
Oh, no. His stomach rolled. He gasped.
She stopped, the needle poised over his arm.
"Are you all right?"
He sucked in a chest full of air. When was he going to outgrow this childish fear of needles?
It's now or never unless you want this gorgeous woman to know you're a complete wimp. "Yes. Of course." He made a fist.
She bent her head in concentration. Her presence filled his senses. He wanted to reach out with his injured arm and stroke her short-cropped brown hair, run his fingers along her neck
"Just a little pinprick." The needle entered his arm.
He watched in nervous fascination as she put each of the tubes into the sleeve attached to the needle, watching in horror as the blood flowed in.
"Open your fist," she said as she continued to withdraw his blood.
Hell, what had the doc ordered? He gritted his teeth to keep from asking what all the blood was for. He didn't want to know. All he wanted right now was to be done with it.
"There. You can release your grip on the arm of the chair. Wouldn't want you destroying hospital property, would we?" she asked, a quirky grin on her face as she pulled the needle out of his arm and put pressure on the spot. "Keep your arm up for ten minutes. Do you want me to put tape on it?"
He couldn't seem to take his eyes off herher hair, the skin at her neck, her scent, all flowery warm. He met her questioning look.
"Are you sure you're okay?" she asked.
"Me? Yeah, sure," he said.
"Well, then, do you want me to put tape over the gauze dressing on your arm?" she asked, a look of bemusement on her beautiful face.
"No. Yeah. Maybe you'd better. I have to get back to work."
She had seen the expression on his face as she'd drawn the blood. Rory MacPherson was nervous. A grown man who was afraid of needles. Peggy Anderson had met a few of them before, but none as handsome as this one. His smile surrounded her like a gentle breeze, making her hesitate before taking the blood samples from the tray beside him. His address was one of the few apartment buildings in Eden Harbor, on Salem Street. Most people planning to stay in Eden Harbor bought a house, as houses were easily available with so many people moving away to other parts of the country to find jobs.
He was about to get out of the chair and leave. Eden Harbor didn't have many young, single and gorgeous men. "Where do you work?" She'd never seen him before, and she knew most of the locals because sooner or later they ended up in here getting blood drawn.
He eased back into the chair and met her inquiring gaze. "I'm a carpenter. I work for myself. I hurt my arm running a saw. Just a nick, though, so that's good."
His eyes were fascinating, and very, very blue; his smile intrigued her. He didn't wear a wedding ring, but that was no guarantee that he was unattached. She'd made that mistake once before and had paid the price in total embarrassment tokens, her measure of yet another unsuccessful attempt at meeting a man.
"How long have you been in Eden Harbor?" she asked as she took his blood samples to the counter behind her, placing each in their appropriate slots on the tray.
"Not long. In fact, I'm just getting my business under way. I've met some pretty wonderful people here."
She turned around to find his gaze openly moving over her. She'd grown accustomed to that look and ignored it. Men were shoppers, and window-shopping was their entry point in getting to know the merchandise, or so one of her ex-boyfriends had said.
"I I'd better get back to work," he said, getting to his feet. "Thanks for being so gentle. I'm not good at getting my blood taken." He stood up, hugging his injured arm to his chest. She had to admit he was truly tall, truly handsome and almost certainly unavailable.
Yet his gaze held hers in a way that made her feel so totally connected, as if she was the only thought on his mind. In her experience, most men didn't spend a lot of time looking at her face in favor of some other part of her anatomy. "Being gentle is part of my job."
"I'm afraid of needles. That's the very first time I didn't feel like I was going to faint. Like a tree falling over." He swung his uninjured arm in a wide arc. "I usually sit for a while. To cover my embarrassment I make conversation with the tech taking my blood."
"Is that what you were doing with me?"
"No! No. I wanted to talk with you. I mean really talk."
"About maybe you and I going out somewhere. Nothing serious. Just coffee. I don't know many people in Eden Harbor, and you could introduce me around," he said, his smile totally disarming.
"To somebody more interesting, you mean?" Well, at least he didn't pretend he wanted to date her.
He rubbed his face with his free hand. "I didn't mean that the way it came out. I I'd like you and I to get to know each other, maybe be friends."
She couldn't help but smile at his discomfort. It was so endearing. "Are you this smooth with all the women you meet?"
"Didn't know I was being smooth. Thought I was just being honest."
The last man pretending to be honest had talked her into paying his bill for fixing his car. Not one penny of which she'd gotten back.
He hugged his injured arm to his chest as he stared down into her face, his smile so exciting it made her wish she wasn't so distrustful of men.
"Okay, so I'll take your silence as a no," he said as he moved toward the door. "Thank you."
The way his jeans hugged his butt made her rethink her position. Eden Harbor was hardly crawling with eligible men. Her nightlife consisted of going to the pub with friends once a week and playing volleyball with the local women every Wednesday night. And what harm could there be in having coffee with this man whose fear of needles warmed her heart, whose blue eyes were so engaging? "Wait. Sure. Coffee would be great."
"The Big Mug on Market Street?" She glanced at her watch. "Meet me around four?"
His blue eyes seemed bluer. The quick frown creasing his brow turned into a grin. "Today?"
"I know the place. I did a reno there a couple of weeks ago. See you at four. Your name tag says Peggy. What's your last name?" he asked, his voice eager, his eyes on her.
She wanted to laugh at the way he seemed almost inept around her. Most men were busy trying to put the moves on her, but Rory was sweet. She touched her name tag. "Anderson. Peggy Anderson."
"Great! Good name!"